For some background, we typically prefer all inclusive vacations and have traveled fairly extensively to the Caribbean. We have been trying out cruises to get a taste of various islands so we know which ones we would like to return to.
Overall general summary – This was a great cruise. In fact, it was our favorite Carnival cruise to date. I believe this was due in part to the wonderful staff, and the many fun travelers that we met for the duration of the cruise. We also learned from our prior cruises, and realized that for us, it was not a good idea to book excursions at every single port. This allowed us to actually enjoy our time in port and to relax a bit more, which is what we enjoy. This also avoided what I call the “herding of the cattle” when getting off the ship at ports.
I didn’t love our cruise director this time, but that More
doesn’t make or break a cruise for us. I just didn’t feel as if he was as engaging as other cruise directors I’ve had in the past.
Will I return to Carnival – ABSOLUTELY! Would I recommend this ship, most definitely.
I will try to highlight each area and you can skip around to what interests you. If I missed anything, feel free to ask.
We flew from Indy on Southwest into Fort Lauderdale because we have family in the area that met us. We returned via American Air through Miami. I DO NOT RECOMMEND Miami unless you are a frequent traveler and/or have a lot of patience. If you are a first time flier, this airport is the most disorganized place I have ever been. We travel fairly frequently, and I find it very difficult to navigate. If it were my first time flying, I would be overwhelmed. It is also impossible to find anyone to help, and if you do, most do not seem to speak English. If you speak Spanish, then you may have an easier time. In the future, we will fly into either Fort Lauderdale or West Palm.
We stayed at The Epic in Miami. It is near the Biscayne area, which is where I highly recommend staying. There is so much to see and do around the surrounding area, from shopping to restaurants. The Epic was phenomenal, service was spectacular, and the views were incredible. I would definitely stay here again. I was able to score a discounted rate, but the regular rate is pretty pricey for a one night stay. If you find a deal, take it, if not, I’d stay somewhere more economical for one evening. We did enjoy a fantastic breakfast in the morning.
TRANSPORTATION TO CRUISE PORT
We had a taxi take us to the port, and I believe the cost was $15.
FASTER TO THE FUN
So far, I’ve had this each time, and it has worked marvelously to avoid lines. This particular time it didn’t work out quite as well, but that is only because a marathon was taking place in Miami with 10,000 runners. Numerous roads to the port were closed most of the morning. As such, many guests arrived near the same time, so we were still standing in line for much longer than we have in the past. Otherwise, I will continue purchasing this to avoid lines not only when embarking, but disembarking and for guest services. I definitely recommend for people with children, older folks unable to stand for long periods, or for generally impatient people...like me who want to get on the ship and get to their room and to the lido deck. ïŠ
The Conquest is a very pretty ship. Although some have indicated that it is showing wear, we didn’t feel that way at all. In fact, crew members were always painting, cleaning, steaming and taking good care of the ship the entire time. We both felt that it was very well kept. We have also been on the sister ship, the Liberty, and we actually preferred this décor. The difference between the ships is that the Liberty offers the Serenity deck and the Mongolian Wok, and the Conquest does not. We didn’t really miss either of those aspects, as we were able to find some quieter spots near the aft area of the ship.
The ship has a nice layout which is fairly easy to navigate.
The staff were all so accommodating and everyone was very eager to please. The bar staff, the hospitality staff, room steward, and everyone were just as nice and helpful as they could be. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.
If you want the best steak ever, book The Pointe Steakhouse!! ($35/person) We both had the filet mignon, and it was cooked to perfection with the best flavor of any steak we have had in the past. If food isn’t important, you could save your money. However, if you want a nice, quiet, dining experience, I highly recommend. We thought it was worth the cost, even though we could not possibly eat all the food. I had the spinach salad, husband had caesar, and both were very tasty. I had baked potato, he had horseradish mashed potatoes, and those were incredible!!! We didn’t get an appetizer, but we did split the chocolate dessert option. It was fabulous.
Strangely enough, we only dined in the main dining room once, which was very unusual for us. Our last cruise, we dined there every evening. We decided to relax more on this cruise and be more casual. The food we had on the first evening was extremely good, and we sat beside some very enjoyable people who we continued to see throughout the cruise. Carnival continues to cater to those with food allergies, which I have. It makes it much more enjoyable to eat when you know someone is looking after you.
We had a burger almost every day. (I skipped the bun hoping that helped). The burgers are fantastic, the fries are great, and it’s an easy meal. We seemed to return to the port each day close to around 4 pm, so we were hungry from breakfast, and this seemed to be a quick meal which we substituted over the dining room. I know that’s bad, but we’re not foodies, and we aren’t big eaters. You can top the burgers with about anything you like (onions, mushrooms, lettuce, peppers, pickles, bacon, mustard, ketchup, special sauce, mayo).
I only had cheese and fruit from the buffet, but my husband did have some fish and chicken and noodles and enjoyed it.
FISH & CHIPS
Hubs ate there and said that it was REALLY good and extremely fresh and cooked to order.
I had a breakfast burrito one morning, and that was one of my favorites. We also tried the chicken tacos, which I didn’t like. It seemed to have an odd season that I didn’t care for. Interestingly enough, we tried the chicken burrito and it was fantastic. This is a favorite of mine, because we enjoy wraps because I’m not a big bread fan. I just wish they were open longer than 12-3. It’s nice for a lighter option.
We ordered croissants, fruit and yogurt almost every morning with apple juice and coffee. (the apple juice is great if you have motion sickness issues, so I try to have a glass a day). I love to have some coffee while looking out onto the balcony. If you place your order the evening before, it is there at the time requested. Very impressive.
We were in a balcony cabin on the spa deck (1103). We were very pleased with the cabin itself, and really enjoyed the quietness on this deck. We use the stairs while on the ship, so that was the only downfall to this cabin. When you arrive in port and are on deck 0, it’s a LONG haul up. However, we feel it offsets the Guy’s burgers, so it was fine by us. I would stay in this area again.
BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this tour, even though it is $95/person. I would highly recommend to anyone. I loved seeing the laundry, kitchen, entertainment, the bridge, engine room, and where the crew gets to enjoy their time. It is fascinating to me how they run the ship and I believe everyone enjoyed the tour. We did notice that some of the more elderly folks attending were having difficulty with all the stairs. You might want to take in consideration that you will climb 2-3 flights at a time. If this bothers you, it may not be a good option.
We used the gym facilities on several occasions. I suppose it was a bit motivating that we were on the spa deck and passed had to see the GYMNASIUM sign as we walked by. They have numerous cardio machines, weights and several classes. I do wish they offered more free classes. About anything I was interested in was an additional charge, and I wasn’t willing to pay $12 for a class. I do hope the machines were calculating burned calories incorrectly, because it sure felt I was burning more while working out on the ship than I do at home. The waves make things a bit more challenging!
SPA – We attended the spa tour which was offered on the first day and it was nice to see what they have to offer. Since we were on the Spa deck, I was reminded how much I wanted a massage!! So, we splurged, and we both had a massage and facial. It is relatively pricey (nearly $300 for the two of us). However, if you do splurge, ask for Naomi, she is phenomenal. I’ve had neck issues for years and feel I’m somewhat a massage snob, so sometimes I don’t think it is worth it, but in this case, I was extremely pleased because she was fantastic. She was able to get all the knots out.
LUGGAGE/CLOTHING - We took a lot of clothes, and we seemed to utilize most of them. I do wish I had brought additional t-shirts and warmer clothing for inside because the air conditioning gets very cool at night, and sometimes the breeze on the ship is cold in the evening.
POOLS – There were two pools on the ship, and most of the time they were pretty busy. If you stay on the ship in port, you can easily land a spot near one. If you try to do so on a sea day, you better get up early.
LOUNGE CHAIRS - Even during sea days, although it was busy, we were able to find a chair, albeit not by a pool!
ICE CREAM/YOGURT- need I say more? It’s available 24 hours a day in cone or dish.
ENTERTAINMENT/SHOWS/PARTIES (the entertainment team was leaving the ship and a new team was replacing them, so these are subject to change).
Superbowl – We expected this to be a highlight of the cruise, however, because the game was so terrible, it was a bit of a letdown. The good news is that we met some wonderful people who we enjoyed seeing on several occasions throughout the cruise. If you do watch the seaside theatre, I would recommend bringing a jacket or at least a sweatshirt, as it can get very breezy.
We attended the Mexican Fiesta which drew a large crowd and offered many common dances, along with some new ones. We enjoyed this deck party.
The Caribbean Beach party was not well attended, so we didn’t stay long.
Government Shutdown – musicians near the casino. They were very entertaining and played a good selection of music.
Divas Show – Excellent, highly recommend to see this show.
Playlist Productions – This was our favorite show, the dancers did a fantastic job.
Liars Club – DO NOT recommend. We left after 5 minutes.
Comedy Shows – We attended the family friendly and adult shows. We had three different comedians, because two new ones arrived one day while we were in port. Some are better at the family shows and some are better at the adult shows. I’d recommend seeing both to see what you enjoy the best. We thought all the shows were enjoyable.
CASINO - We used the casino a couple times, and would win a little on the slots and then lose it. There are always wait staff around for drinks. It is a bit smoky at times.
PORTS INFO FOR EASTERN CARIBBEAN - Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan & Turks
Nassau – We walked from the port around town and just went to the shops and to Senor Frogs.
St. Thomas – we booked the Carnival excursion to St. John Trunk Bay. That is one of the prettiest beaches we have visited. The sand is powdery soft and the beaches are beautiful. Take your beach towel. You can rent chairs and you can also purchase food (cash only). The lady at the counter is NOT friendly and seems annoyed by people placing orders. One would think she would be happy working in such a gorgeous location.
San Juan – We hired a taxi driver for $50, and he took us around Old San Juan and new San Juan, and provided us history of the island. The tour was about 45 minutes long and very enjoyable. We had previously been to the Fort, and if you have not previously been there, I would definitely recommend a visit. The views are amazing. I would not recommend the Fort to anyone that has a difficult time walking around or up steep hills. Also, there are many cobblestone streets in Old San Juan, so wear appropriate footwear.
Grand Turk – This time we were the only ship in port and it was AWESOME!!!! The water is crystal clear, just gorgeous. We visited the pool for a couple hours and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were well attended to, and the weather was very nice. There isn’t much of a breeze around the pool, so it can get very hot. We decided to do the Carnival Train Trolley ride. Overall, we enjoyed it, and the price wasn’t very expensive. We took a tour of Grand Turk, which isn’t much to speak of. I wasn’t aware beforehand, but this tour stopped at local business areas and were able to purchase items from the locals. We always enjoy that. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring much cash because I didn’t know we would have that opportunity.
SUGGESTIONS TO CRUISERS
Have fun!! Eat more, drink more, enjoy more. Breathe. Go to a quiet space. Take in everything. People watch.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Enjoy your cruise and make it what you want. Do as much or as little as YOU want.
If you are able to walk up and down stairs, save the elevators for those who are unable to do so. You may be the one who needs to utilize them in the future. We saw so many people get on an elevator to go up or down one set of stairs. That just clogs them up. Get some exercise!
When you are walking around, be mindful of others. Some people can be very rude.
Don’t schedule return transportation or air travel too early. Delays happen and it may not be Carnival’s fault.
We had a few minor issues that I should have addressed early on, but I didn’t. Our shower was clogged and the floor would be covered in 2 inches of water. The hot water was SCALDING hot in the sink, and the balcony door would not remain shut unless it was completely locked up. These were all minor issues, and once I contacted the guest services, they sent maintenance to fix them immediately. I was extremely pleased with their promptness.
If there were a couple things I could personally do, my suggestions would be to have a TRUE all inclusive experience. Or, I wish Carnival did as Royal and offered the drink packages to each person individually, rather than requiring everyone over 21 to purchase. I just feel that the cruise lines nickel and dime you for everything. We have done so many all inclusive vacations that I have found they price out far less expensive overall for us. However, I do enjoy cruising and will continue to do both.
I will write another review on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. Watch for that one in April!!